News / USA

US Congress Divided as Federal Shutdown Looms

From left, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the Democratic Policy Committee chairman, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the Budget Committee chair, repeat their resolve to not touch the Affordable Care Act, on Capitol Hill in Washington,  Sept. 19, 2013.
From left, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the Democratic Policy Committee chairman, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the Budget Committee chair, repeat their resolve to not touch the Affordable Care Act, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 19, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Michael Bowman
— Less than two weeks before a threatened U.S. government shutdown, leaders of the House and Senate have each ruled out the other’s demands for a funding extension. America’s latest fiscal standoff revolves around funding for President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

Put simply, a core group of House Republicans refuses to extend federal spending authority that funds the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” Senate Democrats refuse to consider any spending bill that omits it.

Leaders of both chambers dug in their heels Thursday. House Speaker John Boehner announced the chamber would vote Friday to keep the government running - without Obamacare.

“When it comes to the health care law, the debate in the House has been settled.  I think our position is very clear: The law is a train wreck [a disaster], and it’s going to raise costs. It’s destroying American jobs, and it must go,” he said.

If passed, the House bill would go to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid made this announcement, “Any bill that de-funds Obamacare is dead. Dead. It is a waste of time, as I have said before. In fact, I told the speaker [Boehner] that last week.”

The Senate is expected to pass a spending bill that sustains funding for Obamacare. Unless an identical measure passes both houses of Congress by the end of the month, a limited federal government shutdown will begin.

Obama and Democratic lawmakers said there would be no negotiations on Obamacare, or on raising America’s debt ceiling. The federal government will exhaust its ability to borrow sometime next month.

Senator Charles Schumer said Democrats were united and will stand firm.

“We will not blink," he said. "Do not get it into your heads that we will. We will not!”

But Boehner said negotiations were needed, and that Obama’s stance on fiscal matters was indefensible, given his recently demonstrated willingness to strike deals with foreign leaders.

“So while the president is happy to negotiate with Vladimir Putin, he will not engage with the Congress on a plan that deals with the deficits that threaten our economy,” he said.

Democratic lawmakers said they were eager to find ways to improve America’s fiscal health, but insisted that a government shutdown or a debt default must not be used as bargaining chips.

“This is playing with fire. Legislative arsonists are at work when they start using the debt limit for their own agenda," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The Affordable Care Act seeks to boost the number of Americans with health care insurance and to reduce health care costs overall. The law was passed in 2010, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Major components go into effect next month. Many Republicans see Obamacare as a damaging expansion of government power, and view looming fiscal deadlines as their last chance to derail the law.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid